There’s nothing Hallmark about it: How to Heal Heartache

While the world embraces Hallmark love on Valentine’s Day this week, Deacon Marques Silva offers us the lessons that carried him through heartache in its many forms: from unfulfillment and disappointment, to real pain and brokenness.

By: Deacon Marques Silva, Director, Office of Child Protection and Safety

I remember when I was child sitting down to fill out Valentine cards for my classmates. I never had that one person in grade school who I wanted to give “that card” to or even share a SMEC (Secret Moment Eye Contact) across the room. I just never thought about it. Okay, call me male, unromantic or even a Vulcan (This last one I might take as a compliment) but I am just being honest.

valentines-day

I had a girlfriend in high school for a short time, but then as with most high school relationships, there was the tragic breakup with many hours listening on my Walkman to those depressing and torturous love songs to cheer me up. Oh, the drama! In college, I began to gain a deeper understanding of true heartache with the passing of two very close family members and a dear friend.

Fast-forward several years into my adulthood and marriage and heartache took on a new understanding: the heartache of a sick child, the disillusionment of youth, plans and life goals unfulfilled, loss of employment and even the disappointment of friends and family. Each experience taught me to guard my heart so as not to be foolish enough to have it broken again.

As I was considering applying to the diaconate, a priest close to me and my family sat me down and shared that he had noticed I was no longer guarding my heart, but hiding it deep within in me as if in a vault. I knew he was correct, but I justified myself and said that it is out of prudence so that I would not be unnecessarily hurt.

After a few moments of uncomfortable silence – he was calling my bluff – Father told me that it was unbecoming of a Christian, let alone clergy, to bury, hide or even fortify ones heart. He shared with me that all who labor in the vineyard of the Lord should position their heart like our Lord in the traditional images of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. I laughed and said, “Wear our hearts on the outside?!? That is an easy way to be taken advantage of and to be trampled upon.” He then asked me that terrible question that I consider each morning, “Since when is the slave greater than his master” (Jn 15:20)?

After the admonishment (you are getting the shortened version), he then encouraged me, and frankly reminded me, that my heart would be broken many times more before I move on to my eternal reward. He also prepared me to offer the brokenness as a gift: It was okay to be broken because Jesus was broken, too. This last line was not consoling at the time, but it did cause me to reflect and realize that something needed to change – my heart. I quickly realized that the hurt had become bitterness and bitterness manifested as sarcasm which is a sure sign of a dead spiritual life.

What was the balm of Gilead that soothed and strengthened my soul? A devotion to the Litany of the Sacred Heart. Yep. An oldie, but a goodie. It has been through this Litany that I have rediscovered my courage and have stepped out in areas of service I never dreamed of. It is here in this prayer that the Lord has been rooting out my selfishness and desire to serve myself which amplified true hurts and fostered sarcasm. It is by meditating upon His heart that I am learning to listen not just to the hearts of those whom I serve, but to His heart, which instructs me how best to serve. It is here, in His heart, that I have learned that my heartaches, while real and painful at times, may be united to His and renewed (Rev 21:5b).

I am eternally grateful for my friend’s fraternal correction. It prepared me for my ordination and continues to carry me through some of the craziness in my ministry. I firmly believe that this Litany should be a mainstay of prayer for all clergy, religious and consecrated. Besides deepening my understanding of the Lord as a tremendous lover, here in this simple Litany is a recounting of His endless mercies — the fundamental Gospel message to the world. Listen to it in the video below. If I had to sum up what this Litany has taught me for ministry in a pithy statement, it would be this prayer, “Lord, break my heart with the things that break yours for you.”


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